Monday, October 12, 2009

Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager


Spend any time with me and Langdon and you'll feel like you've regressed to some 70's suburban living room scene, with siblings lovingly spatting, trading barbs and one-upping each other. I keep telling him he's the little brother I never wanted. Turns out, he's older than me. Not that he acts like it, mind you.

Introduced by a mutual friend, he's one of those people that I felt instantly related to, in the comfortable familiarity we share, in our mutual love for a tall tale, and a meal earned through harvesting it yourself.

When I have a wild hair and a yen for adventure, my "younger brother" is on speed dial. Take, for example, my recent foray into wine-making. One phone call later, we were meeting on the shores of Lake Washington, catching up and foraging for ripe, luscious berries to ferment later that day. I'll let him tell you the whole story on his blog Fat of the Land when the time comes.


Here we are strolling the tide waters of south Puget Sound looking for
oysters, clams and mussels. Too bad you can't see how
particularly cool my wellies are.


I'm lucky enough to have incredible people in my life. No scratch that. Make that: incredibly TALENTED people. I'm not a restaurant reviewer or book reviewer. Yet when someone I know or respect puts out something truly different or fabulously well-crafted I'm more than happy to write about it. And shit, let's cut to the chase, I'm just proud of him because half the time I'm putting him down and teasing him and despite all that, he's gotten the better of me by putting out a book that is one of a kind, so solid I can't blow holes in it (though surely I tried).

Fat of the Land: Tales of a 21st Century Forager is tightly written in a way that many memoirs these days aren't. Langdon is a writer first, a forager second and as you follow him and his quirky pals through tales of mushroom hunting, squid jigging and huckleberry picking, you are first struck by the writing, his sly sense of humor, and his ability to paint a picture and to build your emotions right along with his. In his chapter on ling cod spear fishing, I felt my anxiety and claustrophobia building as the weight around his waist pulled him deeper into the inky waters. When his spear missed the target, I winced and held my breathe and was almost literally pushing him on to get to the surface for air.

"Even after you locate a truculent ling, the game has only just begun. Stealth is paramount. Above all, you cannot reveal your real intentions - no sudden movements, no clumsy maneuvering. You approach as if you have no idea the ling is there...dumpty-dum---looking away, minding your own business, keeping your swimming strokes to a minimum, careful not to blow an excitable storm of bubbles. Who knows what the ling sees in you: part foe, part ungainly curiousity. Often it's best to come up from below, arms and legs motionless, allowing your natural inclination toward the surface to carry you forward like a piece of drifting flotsam, your spear already cocked and pointed forward."
Excerpted from Fat of the Land: Tales of a 21st Century Forager with permission by author

When an author's words pull you down and then bring you back up again you are in the presence of excellent writing.


Here we are along with Amy Pennington sharing a beer and some of our legal limit.

I found his book to be a modern day Huck Finn romp, educational, boyish, full of life, adventure and passion. You are left, not with a map to his best mushroom spots (damn him), but with the satisfaction of a story well told, a skill seemingly lost in our attention deficit society. There are more books in Cook, waiting to come out. It matters not to me the topic.


A final note:

Last time Lang was over, we were racking our blackberry wine and planning future endeavors. He was putting the finishing touches on one of his blog entries so I let him use my computer as I puttered about the kitchen. He checked in on his Twitter account and made sure to mention out loud that he better remember to log off because he didn't trust me not to hijack his account.

The moments while I waited for him to pick up the phone as he was driving home were delicious. "Guess what you forgot to do?" I breathed into the phone, then cackled menacingly. He was silent on the other end of the line. "Oh," I pondered to him audibly, "what would I say if I were Lang in under 140 characters?" Crickets. "Oh, what's that? I AM Lang, for the next 5 minutes??" Turns out my little brother said the following,

"Becky is such a marvelous wine-maker. I learn SO MUCH from her every time we hang out."

Thanks Lang, that was extremely generous of you.

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